Monday, August 31, 2015

Today's Word: Estivate

Estivate: (verb)  To spend a hot or dry period in a prolonged state of torpor or dormancy.

That certainly describes my last three months.  Well summer's ending today – I'll have none of that 'not until the fall solstice' nonsense, Summer ends with August – and the extreme heat seems to have broken last week.  Actually spent some quality time out in the yard this weekend without requiring any sort of life-support devices, and biking is downright pleasant again.  So local life seems to once more have made it through the summer estivation period.  Soon we'll be off into the Fall camping season.

Monday Reboot

Here, have a triple shot of espresso.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Think I'll take a Little Bike Ride...

Ten years ago this morning:
(click image to embiggen)

In other news, the Coast is back and bigger and better than ever, including plans to rebuild Fun Time U.S.A.  I am really looking forward to a chance at knocking a golf ball down a concrete dinosaur's mouth again!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

K+10: I'm taking the day off.

Here are some articles from the Sea Coast Echo though, if you want to look into the festivities:
That's enough for me today.  Yard work calls.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Media Points to Ponder

As pointed out in the local BSL paper, the Sea Coast Echo.  [Go & read, otherwise the sarcasm here will sound like a nonsensical rant.]  Remember kids, Katrina dead-centered New Orleans, it was all George W. Bush's fault, and we've always been at war with Eastasia.

Here, have a look at downtown BSL where Katrina clearly didn't hit because it wasn't (a) a major urban center that's easy to find on a map and (b) a colorful locale from which to report.

I mean, the national media can't let the hard cold facts on the ground get in the way of a flashy story, can they?  Nooooo, they wouldn't do something like that.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Weak Solar Cycle

And it has raised a few question about long-term trends.  Here's an article at Sky & Telescope on the topic, and here's the bottom line for the next few years:

Not only does this not bode well for HF radio communications over the next decade, but if this amounts to a longer-term series of low activity cycles there could be climate implications – probably as some form of cooling.  But the jury's still very much out on what's going on in the Sun, and even more out on how this will affect Earth's climate.  In the meantime, you can keep up on what is known at the NASA/Marshall Sunspot Cycle page.  In particular, there are links to two very accessible review articles toward the bottom.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Watch a Mustang get smoked...

... by a 5-second car:
Holy cats.

BBC Article About WWL

Here.  Interesting magazine-length article about the WWL staff's efforts to keep the region's one clear channel AM station on the air during Katrina and in its aftermath.

It is interesting how the map in the article shows the path of Katrina shifted west by 30 miles.  You're seeing history re-written, not by propaganda but by sloppy journalism.  "Katrina hit New Orleans, oh and some parts of fly-over country."  Well, not to minimize the suffering in New Orleans, but it wasn't ground zero, and the disaster there was more a result of decades of infrastructure neglect than of direct storm action.

Looking past the mainstream media's only-urban-areas-count tunnel vision, it is a good story about how vital radio, and AM radio at that, is when the chips are down.  I wonder if they'll even make any mention of the WQRZ staff's efforts?  You know, over where the storm actually hit?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

K5H Katrina 10th Anniversary Special Event Stations

It's a ham thing.  Here, just read about it at the event's web site.

If you're not familiar with the concept of hams hosting special event stations, think of it as the amateur radio equivalent of a running club putting on a 5k to commemorate an event, occasion, anniversary, etc.  Here's the Wikipedia page on the subject, it's pretty short.

Remains of the Bay Bridge.  This is where the eastern eye wall – i.e., the bad part – made its final landfall.  No particular reason, just felt like posting it.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Movie Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

This movie is good, light entertainment.  If you've seen the trailer, if you've watched any of the original series episodes, you know about what to expect.  This installment is very much an origins story, with the eponymous agency being formed up at the end.

Many professional reviewers have criticized this movie as having more style over substance, and I am inclined to agree.  There were parts of the plot that barely made sense.  Still, it was enjoyable and the very watchable style mostly glossed over the lack of substance.  This is not a heavy hit relative to the original series, which sometimes barely made sense itself.  (e.g.: Project Earth-Save was pretty nonsensical)  I expected a little better writing in a feature-length film however, but then this is 2015.

No, the parts that bothered me were the main characters' backstories.  Napoleon Solo is remade as a WWII Army sergeant turned jewel thief, while Illya Kuryakin is turned into a barely-in-control psycho.  In the original series, Solo is all Mr. Smooth Ivy League, while Kuryakin played as the brooding intellectual.  It is hard to see how we get from this movie's backstory to the characters from the series.  So that part absolutely did not work.

Despite these flaws, it was a lot of fun to watch.  Alicia Vikander pulled off her part as the young woman caught in the middle of all this very well, and Hugh Grant produced the correct level of dry wit in his part as spy-boss Waverly.  Elizabeth Debicki was perfect as The Villainess, all double-crossed hiss and slyness.

Will there be a sequel?  Obviously the ending of the movie sets things up for one, but I think that it will be a box office driven decision.  And at the box office... well the jury's still out on that one.  Would I go to see the sequel?  Probably.

Bottom line: 2.75 stars out of 4.  I'll enjoy watching this one again on video sometime next winter.

What We Do on the Airwaves

100+ Things to do in Ham Radio, compiled by the North Fulton Amateur Radio League.  Nearly three years into the hobby, I'm checking off just over a third of the list.  What a long, strange trip it's been.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

It's a Small World

... after all!
It's a small, small world.  But it looks even smaller when a series of 92 close-up geology images are stitched together.  More at NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site.  Once more, if APOD isn't on your daily web itinerary, well add it and get some perspective, peace, and beauty into your life.

Now damn, I've got that tune stuck in my head.  Time to get on with the day.  This picture did make me smile though.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Deep Though for Today

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.
When life goes awry, reach for the 

A review of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is in the pipe for tomorrow, but in the meantime here's an article about a lucky find of a case of 80 year old old Old Overholt.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Kacey Musgraves in Tiny Desk Concert

Kacey Musgraves performs over at NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series for a solid 22 minutes in support of her second album Pageant Material.  Both the album and this TDC are pretty good stuff, best described as more of her bouncy "just bein' me, y'all" beat from the first album, with a slightly more dressed-up Nashville tone.  This second album cinches what we all suspected after her first: she's a solid songwriter and musician, and will be on the stage for a long while.

Now a comment about the TDC.  She gets a tad political toward the end.  It played well to her audience at the moment, might put a crimp on things in some other circles.  Personally, I didn't care one way or another, other than the fact that it did momentarily distract from the music.  It may even piss you off.  Meh, her stage, her time in the limelight, no big deal.  I'll be around for her album #3.

Overall, recommended!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

More Katrina Anniversary-Markings

At National Geographic, who better?  | The Article | The Pictures |  Pretty interesting stuff.  Still...

Yes, it is about New Orleans.  It is always about New Orleans for the legacy media.  Look at NPR's 10 Years of Recovery and Reflection page: of 18 articles, only 2 focus on where the storm actually hit.

Consider this last point when receiving news from any mainstream media source.

Back in the Saddle

Had to step out for a few days to lay eyeballs on some real estate and hands on a computer.  Posting resumes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The IQ^2 Debates

If you're tired already of the Trump-go-round of this coming election season, check out the Intelligence Squared debates.  More to the point, here is their back catalogue of past debates.  Site navigation there is a raging pain in the ass, only made worse by Ariana Huffington's picture rotating through on the front page, but trust me that there is much worthwhile content buried down in the archive.

Yes, there is an Australian-based IQ^2 debate series, and possibly others as well.  These aren't quite so pointed at U.S. issues, so I seldom listen to them, and don't have the links at hand.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

More on Solar

On the heels of Wednesday's post about solar-powered radio transmitting, yesterday a friend sent this link to a blog post from a fellow who's gone quasi-off-grid while living in Los Angeles.  Only quasi, because most of the energy intensive things in life – cooking, heating, cooling, transportation – he has merely outsourced.  Naturally, he follows up with a defense of his outsourcing.

While I agree with almost none of his specific choices – soylent?  bleh, forget it man, I need red meat – I agree with his decisions to follow them.  In many ways, he seems to have applied Pareto's principle consistently and thoroughly.  Possibly to the point of idiocy as well, but then that is his problem, his life.

He did blow some of the math, but still got the gist of things right.  For starters, his storage battery is about 3x undersized.  He'll figure out that part in a year or so when he's wrecked it by over-discharging on a regular basis.  Or conversely, he may have enough battery but 3x the panel he needs, in which case he's a little poorer but will be OK.  His blog post is vague on the numbers.

Either way, he's sort of a nut who can't do math worth a crap.  But it is an interesting read, and it does show what is possible.  If anything, it is a high-tech version of what Phil Garlington has pulled off.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Today's Slashdot Quote

"It is better for a civilization to be going down the drain than to be coming up it."  –Henry Allen
I am not exactly sure which Henry Allen said this, but he does have a point.  Trouble is, some civilizations are so mixed up that they don't know if they're coming or going.

Got nothin' else today.  Hot weather, hard work, and a house to clean up after two weekends' worth of household engineering projects.  Getting on toward time for a small Summer break.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Solar-Powered Radio Comes of Age

KEZW, Denver CO, 80% solar powered:
Articles here, here, and here.

KF5SQF, Bay St. Louis MS, 100% solar powered:
Articles...  We ain't got no stinkin' articles.

Anyway, solar powered radio: All the cool kids are doing it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

NPR Series on "Ten Years of Recovery and Reflection" on Katrina

Here's the link.  I'll be watching over the next month as stories are added.  So far, two articles on New Orleans and one on Pearlington.  Good to see some news on, oh say, where Katrina actually hit.

Ten years.  Bleh.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Initial Notes on the 6BTV Vertical Antenna

Things have finally come together on this thing.  So far it's all working well, but relative to my existing antennas the results are ambiguous.  With 16 22 gauge ground radials, all bands tuned easily: 10, 15, 20, & 30 have SWRs < 2 across the bands, right out of the box.  40m took a few minor adjustments on the telescoping sleeve, but is < 3 from 7.0 to 7.275 MHz, and with a little bit of autotuner persuasion it will reach up to the 7.3 MHz band edge.  So that is a success.  On 80m... after trimming the whip extension down do 16.5", SWR is < 3 from 3.810 to 3.880 MHz, for a relatively narrow 70 kHz bandwidth.  The autotuner stretches things out to nearly 200 kHz, which is perfectly useable.

As for performance, the vertical seems to have legs on 30m with PSK31.  Last night I was able to receive three stations in eastern Europe, and had a conversation with a guy out in Oregon, both things that the low dipole has never managed.  OTOH, it may have just been band conditions.  I did have a conversation with a group in the Jackson area on 80m to compare performance with the low dipole on that band, and the vertical came out the loser by a factor of 30 dB.  No surprise there, because that 150 mile hop is best done with NVIS off of a low dipole.  No comparisons yet on 40m.  10 & 15m sound a bit more noisy than on the A99, but those comparisons will have to wait for daytime.

So if anything, this vertical is a step up on 30m, and may yet prove to be a step up for DX on 40m as well.  It is certainly a compact, functional antenna.  Its footprint, ~1 sq ft when raised, and 25 ft length when lowered, is much much smaller than the 80/40 antenna's 85 ft length and its pain-in-the-rear 4 guy-lined center support mast.  I strongly suspect that when the summer lightning noise fades and the ionosphere improves this fall, this vertical will prove its worth.

As a side note, on 30m the predictions for the vertical are for a step up in performance:

which is noticeably but not overwhelmingly better than the low dipole's modeled performance:
But that's just rough modeling, and reality may be quite different.  With time and a bit of patience, we shall see.

Taking a look at winter propagation on 40m, things look much more promising.  Here's the vertical's predicted performance:

vs the same for the low dipole:
Again, we shall see.

ps: If you're looking for one of these for your very own, DX Engineering has them.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Starting August on a Good Note

Wrap it up, I'll take it.

Antenna agonies today with the new 6 band vertical.  Lots of filing and fitting.  Multiple runs to the hardware store.  Slaving over a hot soldering iron.  Looks like the end is in sight, though no doubt there will be significant tuning and tweaking.  Pictures and performance reports will be along in the coming days.